by Ken Ludwig, author of How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (Broadway Books, July 2014)

Since my early teens, I’ve felt strongly about the value of Shakespeare, but it wasn’t until I became a father that I figured out how to share my passion with the people I love. One day, my daughter came home from first grade spouting a line of Shakespeare—“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and at that moment, a light bulb went off in my head.

Starting that weekend, I set up a routine. My daughter and I would spend two hours each week memorizing speeches from Shakespeare’s plays. We started with short passages from the comedies and, gradually, increased the length and complexity of the passages we studied. To my delight, my daughter took to it immediately, and the hours we spent learning Shakespeare together were some of the best family times of our lives. (more…)

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9780385494229Erin Gruwell, author of The Freedom Writers Diary (Broadway Books, October 1999) reflects on her recent trip to Israel

I recently returned from the Middle East, and I feel compelled to share. My trip to Israel and the West Bank was inspiring and eye-opening. I did over 20 events in Israel on behalf of the U.S. Embassy and 7 events for Palestinians Authority in the West Bank on behalf of the U.S. ‎Consulate General.   All told, I worked in over a dozen cities, addressed audiences of thousands and hugged hundreds. I will never forget the faces, nor the stories they shared.

I was fortunate to present workshops at major universities in the region, engage in difficult discussions with thought leaders, motivate high school students, ask and answers complex questions with NGO’s and banter with both Israelis and Palestinians–many of whom are talented teachers, intellectually curious students and passionate people who are hungry for peace. It is possible. (more…)

Tony Danza

Dear Teachers,

Here is my little note of encouragement as you are either returning to yet another school year or beginning your teaching career. I wish you all the best year of your students’ lives—I know that’s what you all wish for. The truth is, though, that this is a tough time for teachers and it’s gotten tougher since I taught for one year at Northeast High in Philadelphia in 2010. I’m back there often and I was just there for commencement where six hundred kids graduated. The day was electric! That’s the good news. The bad news is that, the night before, there was a retirement party for thirty-four of the school’s teachers. Their overriding reason for leaving was the contract they’d been offered by the district. Being a teacher was never about getting rich, but the continuing pay cuts and further givebacks proved to be a tipping point for them. It’s too bad that teachers, after years of service, are forced to decide when to leave based on any issue other than that they are ready to stop doing what they love. No reflection on a job and career done well, just a pragmatic decision about money. To many teachers, this is the final indignity. There were tears. (more…)

NightoftheCometby George Bishop, author of The Night of the Comet: A Novel (Ballantine Books, July 2013)

In my new novel The Night of the Comet, the protagonist is a high school science teacher in a small Louisiana town, circa 1973.  Frustrated in his work, belittled by his family, mocked by his students, he hitches his aspirations to what he believes will be the astronomical event of the century: the coming of Comet Kohoutek.

For my portrayal of Alan Broussard, the teacher, I drew on my own experience in the classroom.  I’ve taught English for most of the last two decades—enough time, certainly, to give me a sense of the rigors and rewards of teaching, and also to raise my esteem of those who have been doing it even longer, and in more difficult circumstances, than I have.

I was also inspired, in my story of Alan, by movies I’ve seen that feature teachers as heroes—but not in the way you might expect.   (more…)

Leap Write Inby Karen Benke, author of Leap Write In! (April 2013, Roost Books) and Rip the Page! (Roost Books)

After the last bell, the middle and high school students in my small town gather on the sunny patio in front of the local Starbucks.  They hang out in lose clusters talking, snacking and, of course, text messaging.  A few feet away, I sit in my silver car and wait for my pre-teen son to finish his socializing, the conversations I overhear cause the corners of my mouth turn upward as I imagine their words, exchanges, exclamations finding their way into poems.  As a writing coach to kids and kids-at-heart, this scene—and others like them—serve as inspiration for the many experimental writing prompts I create to get people inspired to pick up a pen.

In addition to my coaching and work with California Poets in the Schools, I meet with groups of tweens and teens at local bookstores.  (more…)

What does Tony Danza know about education?!

As an actor, Tony Danza had conquered nearly every entertainment realm—TV, the movies, even Broadway—when one day three years ago, he felt a powerful urge to chase a childhood dream and become a teacher. He’d been inspired by a documentary made by Teach for America, the organization that trains college graduates to teach in rural and urban public schools, and he wanted to give something back. After dazzling viewers of such hit TV shows as Taxi and Who’s the Boss? and delighting Broadway audiences, he figured that, even with his lack of teaching experience, he still stood a good chance of keeping a classroom of high school kids engaged. How hard could it be?

As he found out, really hard. Entering Philadelphia’s Northeast High School’s crowded halls in September 2009, Tony found his way to a tenth-grade classroom filled with twenty-six students who were determined not to cut him any slack.

In his new book, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High,Tony shares experiences that ranged from the infuriating to the deeply rewarding as he relives the amazing story of what happened. In his tenure at Northeast High Tony did it all, teaching Shakespeare, working detention, assisting the music and drama departments, coaching football, and helping a special group of young people through some of the most daunting personal and emotional issues.

We invite you to watch Tony’s message to educators on his site, TonyDanza.com, where you can also find more information about the book and his upcoming events.

Click here to read a conversation with Tony Danza and Erin Gruwell, author of The Freedom Writers Diary.

Last year I retired from a profession that was probably the most challenging, the most frustrating, and in many ways the most rewarding profession that I’ve ever held. When I rolled my wheelchair out of my high school English classroom for the last time, I had to take a moment to recognize and honor all that I had gained from the experience. My reasons for choosing not to return to the classroom are complex and varied, but one thing is without doubt: to watch a student read, process, and discuss a work of literature is a thing of beauty.

I recall so well my freshman class’s heartfelt reactions to the suffering of young Elie Wiesel as we became immersed in the story of Night. Class discussions revolved around the cruelty of humankind and the necessity of hope, and their journals reflected just how engrossed they were in the journey. They experienced a similar reaction when the students (who were, like the school, about 92% Caucasian) dove into the life of Richard Wright and his shocking experience of growing up in the Jim Crow South in Black Boy.  During our conversations we explored topics such as the use of the “N word,” poverty, racism, religion, and, of course, the cruelty of humanity. (more…)